Monthly Archives: April 2011

Startup America – Update

Startup America from The Startup Garage

Startup America – Update

Back in February, just after the State of the Union address by President Obama we wrote a blog about the Startup America initiative, and how it would impact us all. At the time, not many details were known about the initiative and so now that we are almost three months into the process, its time for an update.

Startup America has kicked off its initiative by hosting what they are calling Reducing Barriers Roundtables around the country. The first was in Durham, NC on March 3rd and the roundtables are scheduled to wrap up on May 12th in the Silicon Valley. The goal of the roundtable discussions is to meet with entrepreneurs and hear directly from them about what processes and regulations we need to change and improve to build a more supportive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation .

According to the SBA (small business association) website, they will use the input from the roundtables and broader public participation, and the Administration will put together a list of the best ideas to streamline and simplify unnecessary barriers to Americas entrepreneurs and innovators. These ideas will be incorporated into the agencies responses to the Presidents Executive Order instructing federal agencies to identify and take steps to eliminate or reduce regulations that are outdated or overly burdensome to entrepreneurs.

Recently, Stacy Gutman, the Director of OPEN forum attended one such roundtable discussion in Austin, TX as this years SXSW convention. Stacy seemed to feel very good about the hour long discussion and came out of it with a positive attitude. She noted that The entrepreneurial spirit was pervasive, not only in the audience, but also across the panel. She also went on to say that The energy was palpable. During the roundtable component, budding entrepreneurs stood up to the mics and announced their new businesses. Founders of startups invited other entrepreneurs to secure funding through them, learn from their experiences and tap into their resources. These are great things to hear because there is clearly a high level of energy going into these discussions, and this type of energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

We will have to wait and see what Startup America puts on its list of best ideas but we think that this a very good way to start things off. Getting the entrepreneurial minds of America together to is the best way to find out what needs to change. Startup America still has a long way to go, but they are on the right track thus far. We will definitely be paying attention to this story as time goes on so check back with us to find out more about Startup America, and what it is doing to make the entrepreneurial world a better place.

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What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur Lifestyle from The Startup Garage

What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

These days there are all kinds of trendy terms and lingo that are thrown out in the world of business and startups. One of these terms is Lifestyle Entrepreneur. Just about everyone who is using the word entrepreneur understands what it means. When you add the word lifestyle to the equation the word entrepreneur takes on a whole new meaning, and this may not always be clear.

The term Lifestyle Entrepreneur refers to someone who goes into business not because of the financial rewards associated with owning a business, but to achieve a certain lifestyle in addition to their financial goals. This breed of entrepreneur is extremely passionate about what they do, and it is this passion that leads them to start a business that allows them to expand upon whatever it is that they are already so passionate about.

It may be difficult to separate a Lifestyle Entrepreneur from just an Entrepreneur. Mark Hendricks, a professional mentor and lifestyle coach says that the main difference is “the degree of focus on money, on sales growth and on expansion for expansion’s sake.” The traditional corporate model is 100% centered on growth and profits, solely based on the assumption that bigger is always better.

Many entrepreneurs find themselves in a particular profession so that they can pay for their car, their house, and the bills. Unfortunately, what many of them experience is that once they have worked all week long to make enough money to afford all of their nice things that they havent got any energy left to enjoy them. This is not the mentality of a Lifestyle Entrepreneur at all.

In general, a Lifestyle Entrepreneur does not expect to make a fortune out of their business. A Lifestyle Entrepreneur wants to be able to live their ideal life while running a successful business. The ultimate goal is not just the profit margin or salary. Also, what many people find is that if they are running a business that they love and are passionate about, that the business will naturally succeed because of their level of interest and enthusiasm that they bring into it.

Everything mentioned thus far might sound amazing and simple; however being a Lifestyle Entrepreneur is notnecessary easy. Hendricks goes on to note that it is still a business and still requires all the components of any successful start-up; a plan, solid funding, a product or service, and a market for it.”

Being a Lifestyle Entrepreneur is not for everyone, however the opportunity is there, and all you have to do is search within yourself to find what your particular model looks like. Being passionate about what you do is an aspiration of many, but a reality for few, so consider Lifestyle Entrepreneurship as a vessel to get to where you truly want to be.

 

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Inbound Marketing for Your Startup Business

Inbound Marketing Strategy from The Startup Garage

Inbound Marketing for Your Startup Business

Everyone has heard the old saying in business Location, location, location. Well, the saying still stands but as a small business owner you need to understand it differently. With the increased use of technology, today it is more important than ever before that your business has a top location on a search engine, for example Google, Bing or Yahoo among others. In other words, it is important for your startup business to be easily found online.

Here we need to define the meaning of a few terms. Outbound (Traditional) Marketing is a marketing strategy for finding customers by building brand awareness through advertising and promotion. As an antonym, Inbound Marketing focuses on optimizing the chances you get found by customers.

Consumers have the power to search online for the companies and products that interest them. Your small startup business should take advantage of the fact that there are people out there looking for a business just like yours. Let them find you! Just think of how often you as a customer have searched Google and have discovered product and services that you desire.

Traditional marketing techniques the way they were taught in colleges and universities still work today but might be too expensive for a startup. And it is possible that they might not reach your target audience. The reason behind the weakening strength of the traditional outbound marketing is that we all, as customers, have gotten increasingly better at managing to avoid and block them. The following statements are not to say that all outbound marketing efforts fail, in fact not at all, but in order to get the point across, here are a few examples: when I watch TV I dont get to see the commercials I have a TiVo; when I listen to the radio, I use the satellite radio or I pay for commercial free radio; not to mention that advertising e-mails rarely manage to make it past the spam filters; lately junk mail heads straight for the recycling bin, and against the cold calls I use my Caller ID. Outbound marketing has proven to be an increasingly difficult way to reach potential customers, might be found intrusive and can often be relatively expensive for your startup.

What is Inbound marketing and how to make it work for your small business? Simply send your message to the people who are already your customers, to your suppliers and partners. Target the people that actually care. Let them spread the word until your message reaches your target customers who are ready to buy. You can use the increasing popularity of the social media outlets, Google, other search engines and the blogosphere. In other words spread the word where you know it is going to be heard and where people are interested in hearing what you have to offer. Your future customers are searching the web for businesses just like yours. Your Inbound strategy will allow them to become part of your online audience, to stumble upon your business, to find you and to come to you.

If you are reading this blog post chances are that you have a small startup business and you have limited means of promoting it, so promote it where it counts. Use your blog, social media and search engines to create an Inbound marketing strategy that would be not only be inexpensive but also delicate way to influence your target audience. Use the influence you have created and make it a permanent asset to your business.
Check back at our blog for tips on how to build a strong marketing strategy for your startup.

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Workspace Design as it Relates to Employee Productivity

Workspace Design as it Relates to Employee Productivity from the Startup Garage

Workspace Design as it Relates to Employee Productivity

When starting a small business in todays incredibly complex business world, there are numerous factors that give firms an improved chance of success. One such factor is Employee Productivity. Leaders in the business community have known for years that if your employees are more productive, then generally speaking, your business is more successful. One way to have a positive effect on employee productivity is to design your workspace to promote and nurture creativity and productivity.

If there is one thing in the workplace that can cause a significant decrease in employee productivity, it isstress. U.S. industries lose nearly $300 billion a year, or $7,500 per worker, in employee absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees related to workplace stress, according to the American Institute of Stress* . Todays employees are suffering from the increasing complexity of the workplace, rapidly changing work environments, increased information and responsibility load, increases in intrusions on employee privacy, and the pressure to be productive, which is especially stressful considering the global competition that reduces job security.

Although there are many ways in which employees are subjected to stress, there are also many things that one can do to mitigate the stresses caused directly by the workplace. Good workplace design can make a big difference in staff satisfaction, attraction, motivation, and retention. It can also affect the level of knowledge and skills of workers, how innovative and creative they are, and how they respond to business and technological change. Poor workplace design, by contrast, is linked to lower business performance and higher level of stress experienced by employees*.

An effective work environment should provide positive sensory stimulation through the proper use of color, lighting, aroma, space, and furnishings. These elements can be critical to effective work activities and workplaces, and they generally lead to increased productivity of employees. Some ways to increase your employee productivity through workspace design are:

  1. Use higher quality lighting
  2. Position fixtures to avoid glare and reflection
  3. Integrate higher levels of daylight
  4. Increase individual control of the workplace in matters of heating and cooling
  5. Improve acoustics
  6. Improved air quality
  7. Integrate views of nature.

If you are a startup company with just a small space or just a few employees, just consider these elements where applicable. If you start thinking about how to design your workspace from the beginning then you will only have to update it as time goes on, not completely overhaul you current system. There is no evidence suggesting that these elements alone will make your business grow, however they will increase your ability to get the most out of your workforce, which should be at the top of any managers list.

*http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar06/employees.aspx

*http://www.management-issues.com/2006/8/24/research/poor-workplacedesign-damages-productivity.asp

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Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 2)

Your Personal Foundation is Your Backbone from the Startup Garage

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 2)

Now that we have summarized the Personal Foundation and what it is all about in Part 1 of this blog lets talk about how to actually set up your own Personal Foundation.

Create a worksheet, or use our template that can be found in the first book in our FREE Startup Toolkit e-book series The Startup Roadmap. If you still dont have The Startup Toolkit Series then sign up on the right hand side of this page.

 

Using the worksheet, there are some very basic, yet pertinent questions that you need to ask yourself.

  1. What is/was the primary reason for starting your business?
  2. How many hours do you envision working on average per week?
  3. How many weeks do you envision taking for vacation each year?
  4. What resources are you willing to contribute to the business?
  5. What goals would need to be accomplished in your personal life to consider your business successful?
  6. How would your business need to impact the world for you to be successful?
  7. What are your expectations for the business?

After you have answered those questions about personal goals, it is then time to look at what your financial goals for your business are. This part is important in order to determine if your business idea can meet your financial goals. These questions include but are not limited to:

  1. How much money do you envision yourself taking in salary and/or distributions out of the business to live the lifestyle you would like living? (Create a fake budget to help, if needed.)
  2. When would you envision working zero hours?
  3. What exit strategy do you envision? (Sale, Succession, No Exit, Other)

Now that you have a really solid idea of what you want from your business both personally and financially you can plan out your business accordingly, never losing sight of your personal and financial goals.
For Part 1 of this blog post, click here.
 

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Business Partnerships: Good, Bad, or Both?

Partnership: Good, Bad, or Both? from the Startup Garage

Business Partnerships: Good, Bad, or Both?

Partnerships are commonplace in business, however many people do not have a complete understanding of what a partnership truly is, how it should function, and what to expect once they have entered into one. In the most frequent instance, a partnership is formed between one or more businesses or partners (owners) that will work together to achieve success, to share profits or losses. Partnerships have widely varying results and can present partners with special challenges. Levels of give-and-take, areas of responsibility, lines of authority, and overarching goals of the partnership must all be negotiated.

Partnerships can be very beneficial to startups and existing companies alike. In general, a partnership is formed between two or more people (or companies) that have differing skill sets. For example, someone who is very technically inclined will partner with someone who has strengths in management. This provides the opportunity for each partner to focus on the area of the business that they are most knowledgeable, which will let the business grow faster and more efficiently. That being said, there is a lot that can be gained from a business partnership, however it is extremely important to understand how the partnership will work prior to committing to the partnership.

One of the most overlooked facets of entering into a partnership is the exit strategy. Most people are so excited to start their venture that they forget to plan for the future, or what will happen when individual goals and visions change over time. Most partnerships will not last forever, and this should be taken into consideration ahead of time. This is particularly true in a lifestyle business. Each partner has his/her own ideas about what they ultimately want to get out of the business. This can refer to anything from the amount of hours each person is willing to put into the business in the future, or what the target returns should be, regardless of how much time and resources are poured into the business. In time, people change, and with this change comes shifts in ideals and lifestyles. What will you do if your partner wants to raise new capital and grow the business but you are happy where it currently is and do not want to invest anymore capital into the venture? These are all things to think about before entering into a partnership, as you will be prepared to go different directions, or make a compromise to continue the partnership.

Partnerships have always been, and will continue to be beneficial to many companies. It is very important to know that in all likelihood, the partnership will not last forever. As long as the partnership is well thought out and planned out thoroughly from the very beginning, then nobody will be caught off guard when it is time to go in different directions.

 

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Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 1)

Your Personal Foundation is Your Backbone from the Startup Garage

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 1)

Starting a business requires one to compose a variety of different elements, and combine them all into a business plan, and then execute the plan according to the strategy laid out in the plan. At the very core of all of this information is YOU, the business owner. An often overlooked part of starting a business is properly setting up your Personal Foundation. After all, your business will be an extension of you, so taking a look in the mirror and deciding exactly what you want from your business is a great idea.

The Personal Foundation is for you to learn more about yourself, your goals and what you want out of your company. This is a place for you to be honest and realize if your goals, strengths, resources, and desired lifestyle all fit together. In order to do this effectively, give yourself at least a solid one hour time slot in which you are completely free from distraction and have the ability to get introspective. During this time you will ask yourself a series of questions that will outline your personal foundation. We will go into these questions in part 2 of this blog.

After you have answered the questions and completed that part of the exercise, you need to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as come up with a commitment statement that you write to yourself that outlines what you want out of your business in relation to what you are willing to put in.

Once you have completed this you will be able to accurately identify whether or not your business idea aligns with your goals both personally and professionally. If they clearly do not align, then you do not need to waste any more time on that idea. If they do align, then you have just given yourself the green light to get your entrepreneurial gloves on and get to work. Great success!
For Part 2 of this blog post, click here.

 

Whether you have a question about your personal foundation or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Building the Support Team

Building the Support Team from the Startup Garage

Building the Support Team

Although it is your idea, your intellectual property, and your business plan, success is not achieved alone. Even the greatest entrepreneurs in history had help, and they needed it to get to the top, trust me. The quality of the people involved in your business also determines the success of your business. Many ventures ultimately fail because the proper talent has not been assembled. Individuals with strong technical backgrounds might ignore the importance of including management team people with the appropriate business background, and vice versa.

Outside of your management team (CEO, CFO, COO), which handles business operations on a daily basis, every business needs a support team. There are three main elements that will comprise your support team. These elements are a Board of Advisors, the Board of Directors, and Professional Service Providers. We will go into who makes up each group and what to look for when assembling your support team.

Board of Advisors

A board of advisors is normally a group of well trusted, respected and knowledgeable individuals. They may or may not be stake-holders in the business. A board of advisors usually includes an accountant, a legal representative, a retired professional or any other individual whose input is considered valuable and relevant to your industry.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors plays a significant role in a business. They are typically responsible for determining the overall direction and goals of an organization. Their job is to focus on long term planning and strategy rather than tactical operations and day-to-day management control. Depending on the size of the proposed business, the Board of Directors may consist of a single individual or an entire group of stakeholders.

Professional Service Providers

Few business owners hold all of the skills and abilities needed to run a successful operation. For that reason, a solid collection of pre-selected, outside consultants will reassure potential investors of a proposed business ability to achieve its goals. Examples of these include but are not limited to a law firm, from which you will seek all of your legal advice, as well as an accounting firm that will make sure your books are properly kept and up to date.

One of the most important parts of the business plan, and certainly the most important part of the personnel plan and organization section, is a presentation of the backgrounds of those individuals expected to play key roles in the initiation and operation of the venture. This will go a long way in establishing credibility in the eyes of investors.
Assembling a good team of experienced individuals is paramount to the success of your business, so choose your team wisely. If you can put together the right mix then you will greatly improve your chances for success.

Whether you have a question about building your team or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!